Arts & Culture

2007 - 2022

Art and the Future

A great reply here from Murdo Macdonald to Jonathon Jones piece ‘Why Scotland should follow its art and vote no to independence’

This is a difficult piece to which to respond because of its premise. I’ve no idea what the ‘British union’ is, but British has always been a useful regional European identity, like Scandinavian, and Britain is no more dependent on the structure of government of its constituent parts than is Scandinavia. The problem is that the word ‘British’ is normally misused as a synonym for English.

One might have hoped that, as a Welshman, Jones would have understood that. The fact that he does not is interesting. But such ignorance is not unique to him. It was equally the case for me. And perhaps that’s the thing on which I can reflect. One of the drivers of my own commitment to independence has been my acute awareness of how ignorant I once was of my own culture except in the form of stereotypes. Perhaps Jones finds himself in a similar position. Certainly many people in Scotland still feel unable to vote Yes because they have been denied information for so long that they believe the myths of Westminster. But Westminster’s myths are myths of Empire, not examples of good governance. They are myths that lead to illegal wars on the one hand and Londoners being unable to afford property in the city of their birth on the other. These are the myths that lead people in the West Country and north of England to feel as little sympathy with the public schoolboys who run Westminster, as do people in Scotland.

The Kenyan writer Ngugi describes this actively promoted ignorance when he writes of the annihilation of people’s belief in ‘their names, in their languages, in their environment, in their heritage of struggle, in their unity, in their capacities and ultimately in themselves.’

That was the situation facing me. Paradoxically it is also the situation that faces so many English people, who perhaps more than any other nation find their culture obscured by the imperial mythology of Westminster. So it’s hard to criticise Jones, because he thinks the argument is about the break up of Britain and it isn’t. I’m delighted that so many Scots have won the Turner Prize and are involved in the Generation show. I’m equally delighted that I knew so many of them and recognised their art by writing about it long before it was validated by Tate Britain or the National Galleries of Scotland. And I’m delighted that Tate Britain, in its recent redevelopment, has taken the trouble to advocate one of Scotland’s most internationally successful artists, Alan Johnston, although the National Galleries of Scotland seem to be completely unaware of his work.

For me international presence is the real point. It’s not about Britain, it’s about the world. The man who gave his name to the Turner Prize isn’t England’s greatest artist because he was a great painter, he’s England’s greatest artist because he was a great European. Turner tells you something real about England but what’s left of the political structure in England is a travesty of politics. To see the parties fighting over a tiny Europhobic space for electoral advantage is contemptible, and the necessity of remaking politics becomes ever more pressing. What many in England and Wales are beginning to realise is that such political remaking will be far more possible in the wake of a Scottish Yes vote, for Scotland will have set the precedent for rejection of the status quo.



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  1. YESGUY says:

    Sorry for going o/t

    Bella readers may have heard the song “Caledonia” i put out last week ( it was only a draft at the time ) The song has been released with ALL the proceeds going to local food banks please click on the link to hears and see the guys going about making the recording and how to buy.


    we can help the hungry in this country please check out the site.

    thanks to Bella and all it’s readers

  2. Douglas says:

    Jonathan Jones? Let me see….

    …is that not that mildly obnoxious man who writes for The Guardian and who, whenever he “writes about art”, actually writes about something which ISN’T art at all, but in fact only obliquely related to the art work he is supposed to be writing about?

  3. YESGUY says:

    Put this up yesterday and it seems to be a video on cannabis …. weird ??

    the Song Caledonia has been recorded for sale to help all the food banks .

    please give a wee listen and buy when on sale 27th July.

    No one should go hungry in this day and age.

    or visit

    Thank you all a at bella

  4. crantara says:

    Please have a wee look at my reply in his article,s comments section. Definitely not as erudite as the above article,just as heart felt though.

  5. Jones exhibits the colonial mindset in full ignorant spate.

    In effect, it amply demonstrates the urgent need for Scotland to run its own affairs and promote its own indigenous talent worldwide.

    London sets the standard. By his and others living there your art will be judged. Stay in Scotland to work and remain obscure. Come to London and perhaps you will get noticed. Perhaps.

    You must first conform to London fashion in art.

    Your art school tutors are doing that already.

    They reject the need to draw first and paint with imagination. Instead they teach only ‘installation’ work – it was an installation that set fire to the Glasgow School of Art – and consequently Jones can boast the best installation artists come from Scotland. He knows that because he helps elevate them.

    Where do you keep an installation: a boring film on an endless loop, three thousand bits of old wood arranged randomly, three millions ceramic scattered seeds pods, a dead cow is formaldehyde?

    Since when did lots of one thing constitute art?

    Like Pollocks action paintings, installations are an artistic dead end, mildly interesting at the moment of viewing, but immune to any development, and destructive to fine art. Called ‘art’ renders some preposterous. They are created for a commercial art market, reinforced by the wealthy for their own profit.

    It is art taken out of the hands, talent and imagination of the masses.

  6. There’s a simple reason art is drawn to the south: people gotta eat.

    Since Jonathon Jones is writing in the Guardian, here’s what it had to say last year: Central government spending on arts and culture in London amounted to £69 per resident in 2012-13, compared with as little as £4.58 per person elsewhere.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      You got a reference for that stat?

      1. From this article: referring to this report:
        I know they’re talking specifically about spending in England, but I imagine it wouldn’t be much different if you could find figures for the whole of the UK.

  7. There’s a simple reason art is drawn to the south: people gotta eat.

    Dedicated artists are famous for starving in garrets.

    It’s much more than food or rent money.

    Any Scottish artist worth their salt will see themselves and their work as international.

    If the only access to international attention is via the likes of ignorant, rattled Guardian arts hacks the artist may as well take up knitting. Painters and sculptors want their work judged internationally not solely by London standards, if at all.

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